Cranberry Benefits for Women’s Urinary Tract Health
Cranberries are a familiar side dish at Thanksgiving, and most are familiar with the sweetened beverage, cranberry juice cocktail. But what do these red berries have to do with urinary tract health? And what are some of the cranberry benefits for women with urinary tract health concerns?
Before we dive into cranberry benefits, let’s answer a few questions about urinary tract health concerns.
What is your Urinary Tract?
According to the National Library of Medicine, your urinary tract includes your urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys. Your urinary system is naturally set up to protect against harmful bacteria by creating a strong flow of urine out of the body. This helps to push potential invading bacteria out of the urinary tract. But despite your best efforts to avoid infection, sometimes bacteria creep into the bladder and stick around.
Why are women more at risk for Urinary Tract concerns than men?
Bacteria from the skin around your urinary and vaginal opening are the leading cause of urinary tract concerns. Women are four times as likely as men to have concerns because they have a shorter urethra. Plus, the female urethra is closer to the rectum where the bacteria originate. About 50-60% of women report having a urinary tract concern at least once in their lifetime.
For women, wiping from front to back is recommended to avoid introducing bacteria into the urethra. Urine often flushes out bacteria that have entered the urethra. Despite this, sometimes the bacteria persist, and an infection can result.
What are some possible concerns for Urinary Health?
Dr. Martha Boone, a board-certified urologist in Alpharetta, Georgia, says that women need to take a minute to be sure that they’ve completely emptied their bladders. Dr. Boone says that many women “are just not giving themselves enough time. People need to sit for a minute and let their pelvic floor muscles fully relax.”
Sexually active women may be more prone to urinary tract concerns since the bacteria present outside the urethra may be pushed into the urethra during sex. One way to flush out any stray bacteria that have entered the urinary tract is to urinate right after sex.
Menopausal women are also more likely to experience urinary tract concerns than other women. Estrogen levels decline after menopause. Lower levels of estrogen can potentially change your vaginal pH, which may contribute to a higher risk of unwelcome bacteria.
Pregnant women who experience a urinary tract concern are more likely to have the concern progress to a kidney infection. Kidney infections during pregnancy can create a higher risk of premature birth. Health care professionals routinely test pregnant women for bacteria in the urine because of these risks.
Do I have reason to be concerned?
If you’ve had a urinary tract concern before, you probably know the signs. You might feel pressure in your lower abdomen, have back pain, burning during urination, or an urgent need to urinate. Your urine could have a reddish color or an odor, or you might feel tired, shaky, and feverish. However, some people experience no symptoms at all and only discover something is up from a screening urinalysis at a doctor’s visit. Either way, once you think you may have a concern, it’s important to follow the advice of your healthcare provider right away.
Cranberry and Urinary Tract Health
Now that we know a bit about urinary health and why women should be concerns, let’s answer a few questions about how cranberry benefits women’s urinary tract health.
What are the cranberry benefits for my urinary tract?
Cranberries have long been touted as a go-to remedy for urinary health. Research supports the benefit of compounds found in cranberries, known as proanthocyanidins (PACs), for keeping the bad bacteria away. If given the chance, bacteria that enters the urinary tract will attach themselves to the inside surface of the bladder wall which may cause a problem.
Cranberry PACs can actually stop the bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, so the bacteria are unable to hang around long enough to cause a problem.
Lead cranberry researcher Amy Howell, Ph.D. first discovered cranberry PACs. She concluded that only A-type PACs found in cranberries have been proven to have this bacterial anti-adhesion activity (AAA) that can help keep the bacteria from sticking. Foods such as apples, grapes, green tea, and chocolate also contain PACs, but they are B-type PACs. Dr. Howell determined that these A-type PACs could bind to and prevent the adhesion of E. coli bacteria, the most common bacteria that cause concerns for our urinary health. When the E. coli bacteria bind to PACs, it is easier for them to be flushed out in the urine before any problems can start.
How much cranberry do I need?
According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee, cranberries ranked in the top three most popular berries, and Americans who eat cranberries described themselves as positive, less stressed and more adventurous than non-cranberry eaters. The amount of cranberry needed every day to achieve the right amount of PACs is eight to ten ounces of 27% cranberry juice, one and a half cups fresh cranberries, half a cup cranberry sauce or one ounce dried cranberries. Start today by adding some cranberry juice to your breakfast or consider sprinkling some dried cranberries on your salad.
What can I do to keep my urinary tract healthy?
Always follow your healthcare provider’s advice. Incorporate a healthy cranberry snack into your daily routine. Remember, eight to ten ounces of 27% cranberry juice or one and a half cups of fresh cranberries or half a cup of cranberry sauce or one ounce of dried cranberries will provide the PACs needed to help keep the harmful bacteria away. Finally, make time to take care of yourself. See your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about the health of your urinary tract. Take an extra 30 seconds in the bathroom to fully empty your bladder. Wipe from front to back, you know the drill. Taking care of yourself can help keep your urinary tract healthy.
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